For those who have decided to take the plunge and build your own guitar tube amp, please permit me to share my early projects/mistakes with you to help get you going in the right direction. However, be sure you actually want to develop your own:
You should be fairly handy around electronics already, and mindful of the risks inherent in high voltage tube electronics as well as the precautions to take when concentrating on tube amps
You shouldn’t possess the expectation that you simply will save money… unless your time and energy is worth nothing at all you can probably do better buying a completed amplifier, even through the Cayin A100t, but certainly on the open market as used
All said, though, there is a lot of satisfaction in completing and playing an amplifier you built yourself and achieving the license to advance modify/tweak/voice your creation to perfection… so let’s get started:
Stumbling Through My first Few Projects – My first project started as being an AM radio, it had struck me that the chassis and a lot of the components was quite suitable for an octal-tube-based Fender Champ-like single-ended amplifier and that i desired to hear the main difference in tone between real tubes and the tube modeling in my Roland Cube amp… After studying some really good tube amp books (see resources) I settled upon a plan and:
* I fought using the old transformers (insulation turning to dust once you flexed the leads), used tube-sockets, noisy potentiometers and poor physical layout (utilizing the previous radio chassis didn’t provide optimum placement of the major components to get a tube guitar amplifier)
* Found out that true point-to-point wiring isn’t the best choice for experimenting
* I couldn’t locate a non-microphonic old-stock pentode tube
* The tone sucked… with hindsight I believe it absolutely was as a result of underwhelming, un-branded, tiny output transformer, but I’ll probably never return to check
* Bottom-line, I learned a great deal however it didn’t answer my fundamental questions regarding tube-tone because I didn’t end up having an iconic amplifier being a reference at the conclusion of the project
* I spent some frustrating evenings redesigning and reworking my first effort then for my second major project I broke down and purchased a kit that promised a clone of the vintage Champ amplifier.
Major findings included:
Saving several pennies here and there on components isn’t satisfying when you end up investing considerable time building the project and elements of the outcome look cheap (e.g. a plastic replacement for a ‘proper’ metal construction Speaker Cable or worse… sacrifice tone (e.g. cheap electrolytic capacitors)
I’ve grown somewhat leary of un-branded chinese transformers that may not have even been hi-pot tested let alone certified with a safety agency; and that knows what laminations, etc. are used within the audio transformer?
Tiny chassis and cabinets aren’t the best option for adding additional functionality to the stock circuit and extremely frustrating to work alongside
8? speakers and small cabinets suck tone… this amplifier sounds great whenever you plug it right into a proper speaker & cabinet combination
The First DIY Guitar Tube Amp Project
With all the above experiences in mind it is actually time for you to summarize some things to consider for the very first project:
* Simple project although not under-featured… something which will be satisfying and playable
* Physically large for convenient access, simplified assembly and room to modify
* Well documented, well supported… not always with user’s manuals and step-by-step construction guides, but rather with a community with active forums, or extensive web documentation, etc.
* A total kit of parts, no difficult sourcing of components
* Top quality parts with the possible ways to upgrade them if desired… but moderation rules… you may want good value over extravagant components to lower your downside should your project doesn’t come out phczif or you lose interest.
* Standard sized chassis for convenient sourcing of cabinets, or Line Magnetic 508ia available from the kit supplier, or a desire, determination and ability to build (and complete) your personal cabinetry
* Using the above given due consideration my third time was the charm!
I suggest you search out an established supplier of tube-amp kits, and select a model that suits both your taste in tone and a satisfying list of features for the first DIY Guitar Tube Amp!